Tuesday 2¢ – Be Useful

Over the holiday period (aside from relaunching Rockstar CMO) I’ve had some time to catch up with some reading, particularly sales and marketing blog posts and it seems to me that from whatever angle you approach going to market with a B2B product, whether you are in product development, sales or marketing all the advice distils down to one thing: be useful.

Being useful has been the watch word for content marketing, Jay Baer summed up a number of folks thoughts on this and nailed it with his excellent book Youtility. And, of course, it’s nothing new, back in 1897 John Deere set out to be useful with The Furrow a branded publication that continues today with the aim to help farmers. As marketers we do better when we help people.

And yes, I know, mentioning The Furrow is a bit trite as it’s now not only the oldest content marketing campaign, it’s also the most referenced content marketing campaign in the history of marketing writing….


Reading all this wonderful advice for sales and B2B strategy, it’s clear to me that we can distill all this down to a simple message of usefulness.

It’s more than marketing – anyone going to market, in whatever discipline with a B2B product could use a lesson from Jay Baer and old green and yella, and I scribbled down 4 ideas on how we do that.

Figure out what are you useful for

Read a lot of articles about this, how people and businesses have struggled to figure out their story, their place in the market and an identity.

It’s essential and a hallmark of all the best brands to have a REALLY clear understanding of what you are useful for.

It needs a clear understanding of the market, but mainly it’s about understanding who you really are as an organisation, your story, niche within your market category and the ability to clearly articulate what you can offer the ideal buyer.

This isn’t some me too “leading vendor” business speak bullshit, but the real deal of what can you really do better than anyone else, what category can you define, what makes you different that can be felt throughout your organization and tribe – Apple style.

Empathy – It’s About Them, Not You.

A surprising amount of sales advice still seems to still be about taking the time to understand the buyer, to stop focusing on ‘the number’ as the client also has a number, a goal they need to achieve, to be useful in achieving that for them.

The number or goal the client has might not be as clearly financial as the sales guy. It could be their pain is time and here is an opportunity for sales to be useful, to take less of their time, to cut the slide deck, focus on offering a solution, to convey trust, to come in early with references and case studies to be useful and then prove usefulness. Whatever it is that buyer needs.

Usefulness is about Timing

Understanding when your content, product and proposition is going to be needed or valued by your consumer is essential to its usefulness.

It might not be a complicated customer journey map, it might something as simple as “when a new CMO joins a company they evaluate their agencies” that will give you an idea of the trigger point that will make you useful.

This needs to be part of figuring out what you are useful for, or the value proposition, elevator pitch or however you describe the meeting that defines who you are. Think about WHEN you are useful.

A Useful Product Strategy

As a B2B marketer, we’ve all been there, the product feature or shift in strategy that is more about a technical wet dream of a product manager or some technology purity vision that has absolutely no bearing on being useful to the customer.

So, like I always advise marketers publishing content, you have to ask “Who cares?”, every product decision needs to be about being useful, every new feature has the potential to add clutter and complexity that is not what the user needs.

And that might mean less features… but that’s a rant for another day.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to pivot a B2B business around the concept of usefulness, but this simple idea can change the way we approach going to market.

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